Shirtless, Oiled Tongan Flag Bearer Glistens Again At Opening Ceremony
Jul 24, 2021, 4:27 PM | Updated: Jul 26, 2021, 11:53 am
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
TOKYO — While most athletes chose to wear matching sweat pants at the Tokyo opening ceremony, the Tongan flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, walked shirtless into Olympic Stadium wearing traditional dress and lots of oil.
He became an overnight sensation when he did the same thing five years ago at the Rio Olympics.
The Tokyo Olympics marked the third occasion that Taufatofua carried his country’s flag at opening ceremonies.
During the 2016 Games in Rio social media went wild over the athlete.
Rio 2016 ✅
PyeongChang 2018 ✅
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 23, 2021
That was followed by a surprising 2018 Winter Olympics appearance in PyeongChang where he competed in freestyle cross country skiing, which was remarkable because his country never gets snow. Pita had only seen snow once when traveling. That did not stop him from competing.
He qualified to compete in taekwondo for the Tokyo Olympics.
The official Twitter account for the Olympics tweeted out, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Pita said he wasn’t trying to win the internet, he was representing thousands of years of cultural history and his ancestors who crossed and lived off the ocean.
Pita wasn’t the only shirtless flag bearer during these opening ceremonies. Rio Rii a rower from Vanuatu joined Pita when he carried his nation’s flag shirtless and in traditional South Pacific Dress.
Outside of training for the Olympics, Pita has long been a volunteer and advocate helping pull youth out of homelessness.
He told reporters, “I’m not out there to be the best in the world. I’m out here to be the best version of me.”